There are more than 1,200 medicinal herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. Extracts and spices collected from roots, flowers, barks, fruits, and seeds can be used by themselves or combined with other herbs to target different body functions.
Ashwagandha is one of the most famous herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, and it is used for several types of diseases and ailments. In the Ayurvedic medicine system, Ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana, or an herb that promotes longevity, memory, and general physical and mental well-being.
The name ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit ashva or “horse” and ghanda, which means “smell” and it describes the smell of its roots – “horsey.” In India, people typically consume ashwagandha root in powdered form added to water, honey, or clarified butter (ghee). The fruits, leaves, and even seeds are also used medicinally.
If you want to reap the benefits of the ashwagandha plant, you may be interested in taking a supplement with ashwagandha in it.
What are the health benefits of ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which are herbal compounds that help the body manage and adapt to stress. It can provide a range of benefits to the body and mind, including lowering blood sugar levels, supporting brain function, and easing stress and anxiety symptoms.
Here are 6 evidence-based health benefits of ashwagandha.
Inflammation and Immunity
Research studies looking at the properties of ashwagandha have found significant neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory effects. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Phytotherapy Research showed that Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) extract significantly reduced inflammatory markers in the body and may protect against cartilage damage.
Other studies have shown that ashwagandha tea may increase natural killer cells’ activity, which are healthy immune cells that help fight infections.
Stress and Anxiety
More and more literature suggests that ashwagandha can reduce cortisol levels and improve symptoms of stress and anxiety.
One study published in the journal Medicine reported that taking a 240 mg ashwagandha supplement reduced mental stress when compared to a placebo. A second trial found a significant improvement in stress and insomnia after taking ashwagandha root extract after 60 days.
Finally, a review of studies looking at the potential effects of ashwagandha for anxiety, reported that most studies ended with improvements in stress and anxiety symptoms compared to placebo and certain psychotherapy forms.
Taking ashwagandha for sleep may help you feel more relaxed before going to bed. In a 2020 study of 150 healthy volunteers with sleep problems taking ashwagandha extract every day, 72% of participants reported improved overall sleep quality and no adverse effects after six weeks.
Another study found that participants who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract reported sleeping better than those taking a placebo. There isn’t a standard ashwagandha dosage for sleep that has been studied. According to clinical trials, however, an effective dose for improving sleep quality can range between 250 to 600 mg.
If you are interested in improving your overall sleep health, we suggest combining an ashwagandha with a natural sleep supplement.
Although research is limited, proponents of ashwagandha talk of the plant’s ability to boost men’s fertility.
Still, research shows some potential benefits. A small study of men with fertility issues found that taking ashwagandha root extract increased testosterone levels and improved sperm count and motility. Another study found similar results among men with stress-related fertility problems.
Memory and Brain Function
There is limited evidence on the effects of ashwagandha on memory and cognitive function. However, ashwagandha seems to promote antioxidant activity and may help with memory and cognitive issues caused by oxidative stress and free-radical damage.
In a small clinical trial, ashwagandha improved reaction time and other psychomotor markers in healthy men. Preclinical studies have also shown some benefits for Alzheimer and dementia patients.
Blood Sugar and General Health
Ashwagandha may reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic and non-diabetic individuals.
A 2000 clinical trial published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology reported decreased blood sugar levels comparable to a common glucose drug after taking ashwagandha powder for 30 days.
And although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms of action of ashwagandha in the body, supplementing with ashwagandha may be an effective way to boost your overall health.
An exploratory study to evaluate the side effects of ashwagandha, who should not take ashwagandha, and other considerations, found that most participants taking doses of up to 1,250 mg of ashwagandha daily experienced a reduction in LDL cholesterol, improved sleep, more muscle strength, and total fat percentage reduction.
What are the side effects of ashwagandha?
Though ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated, more long-term research is needed to evaluate its safety. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some ashwagandha supplements sold in the United States have been tested positive for toxic amounts of lead, mercury, or arsenic. To avoid this, always buy supplements from reputable and established sources. Ashwagandha is also thought to be possibly unsafe for pregnant women as it may induce early labor.
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